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Brother André, patron saint of family caregivers

18-10-2016

Montreal

(Présence-info) Caroline Vadeboncoeur's countless efforts have paid off. Following news she received by email, Vadeboncoeur felt her prayers have finally been answered.

Six years ago, the coordinator of the Regroupement des aidants naturels du comté de L'Assomption (RANCA) requested that Brother André be named the patron saint of family caregivers. On Friday, September 30, at the very end of their annual Plenary Assembly, the Catholic Bishops of Canada gave this title to the founder of Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mont Royal. The bishops also issued a decree that names Saint François de Laval patron saint of the Canadian Bishops. Saint Kateri Tekakwitha received the title of protectress of Canada.

"I was filled with joy when I heard the news," said Caroline Vadeboncoeur, 65 years old. "It was a good lesson in perseverance. Six years of waiting that involved numerous communications with the bishops. It was not always easy."

She described how she first spoke of her project with fathers Claude Grou and Mario Lachapelle, of Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal, shortly after the canonization of Brother André, in 2010.

"I went to them bearing all of the caretakers' despair in my hands. It was not difficult to convince them," she said. "The connection is clear between Brother André, the many sick who would go to see him, and all those people - the term caretaker had not yet been coined - who had to accompany them on the mountain. "Brother André could understand the distress of the caretakers of those times and he certainly heard their requests."

Starting in 2010, she asked the leaders of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) every six months about what was happening with the request she had made.

Government support

She learned of the news via email three days after the episcopal decision had been made. "I am thrilled, personally, but especially for the caretakers who will at least be able to obtain sound spiritual support."

"But it is probably the only support that caretakers will receive," stated RANCA's coordinator. "The governments have completely washed their hands of caretakers. No progress is being made. Our situation is stagnating. We're not in the papers anymore. Occasionally, a courageous caretaker will go to the media to speak out and will receive some attention. But that's all," she said.

She even predicts that there will no longer be any such caretaker in the not-too-distant future, "if we continue to be ignored by the system."

"Who among the current generation will want to commit to such poverty, isolation, and fatigue? I don't know anyone! We are truly the last generation, we in our fifties, to accept such a fate."

She added that, "it is impossible to live without money in our times, yet that is what is expected of our caretakers. Leave your jobs, be wonderful caretakers, but we will not provide you with any service in your homes because you are already providing the services."

At the Oratory

The Rector of Saint Joseph's Oratory, Father Claude Grou, also welcomed the CCCB's decision.

"Caretakers, the men and women who devote themselves daily to their family members, provide a concrete example of the extent of what love and compassion can do," he said.

"Just like they do today, Saint Brother André humbly lent an ear to thousands of people who shared their suffering with him."

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